A manned Chinese submersible successfully reached its lowest-ever depth yesterday and it can explore more than 70 percent of the world’s sea floor, China’s oceanic institution said.
“At a depth of 5,000 meters, the Jiaolong withstood great pressure amounting to 5,000 tonnes per square meter,” Xinhua news agency quoted the head of the diving operation, Wang Fei, as saying.
The test dive comes amid increased tension in the South China Sea, where China and its neighbors dispute ownership over areas that potentially hold huge oil, gas and mineral reserves.
The Jiaolong was used last year to plant the national flag deep beneath the South China Sea, where Beijing has tussled with the US and Southeast Asian nations over territorial disputes.
The three men on board took less than three hours to dive to a depth of 5,057m, where they took photos of marine life, according to a statement posted on the State Oceanic Administration’s Web site.
A follow-up dive will take samples from the seabed, it said, without saying when that would take place.
The Chinese-made Jiaolong — named after a mythical sea dragon — is designed to reach a depth of 7,000m, Xinhua news agency said.
Japan’s Shinkai 6500 has the greatest depth range of any manned research vehicle in the world today — 6,500m, a depth that enables travel to at least 98 percent of the world’s sea floor.
The US Navy conducted the deepest ever dive by a manned submersible in 1960 — the Bathyscaphe Trieste dove 11,000m into the Pacific’s Mariana Trench.
China’s test dive was carried out in “an international area” of the Pacific Ocean, Xinhua said.
The Chinese State Oceanic Administration plans to carry out a 7,000m test dive next year, Xinhua said.
China started the Jiaolong project in 2002. It was the fifth country to send a man 3,500m below sea level, after the US, France, Russia and Japan, Xinhua said.
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